Gerry Thorn­ley

Don’t blame Aki for Zebo’s ab­sence

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Gerry Thorn­ley

To­day marks a defin­ing day in the process which will re­sult in Ire­land, France or South Africa host­ing the 2023 Rugby World Cup and is, there­fore, po­ten­tially one of the most sig­nif­i­cant in the his­tory of Ir­ish rugby.

At 10am, the Rugby World Cup board will re­lease the RWC 2023 Bid Eval­u­a­tion Re­port to the three host can­di­dates and the World Rugby Coun­cil. Akin to their French and South African coun­ter­parts, the Ir­ish team will have an hour to di­gest the re­port be­fore, at 11am, the rec­om­men­da­tion will be made known pub­licly through a re­lease to the me­dia.

The eval­u­a­tion has been car­ried out by a team of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal func­tional area ex­perts, over a range of weighted cri­te­ria, and the host can­di­date which achieves the high­est score will be rec­om­mended by the Rugby World Cup Board as the RWC 2023 host.

While all three bids are likely to score pos­i­tively, if there is a clear over­all win­ner, then most likely the World Rugby Coun­cil will rub­ber­stamp this rec­om­men­da­tion when it makes a fi­nal de­ci­sion in Lon­don on Novem­ber 15th. In­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant The Sports Con­sul­tancy has scru­ti­nised every as­pect of the eval­u­a­tion, so it will be sur­pris­ing if there is not a clear rec­om­men­da­tion. That said if two or more bids are scored closely, then the can­vass­ing for votes in the World Rugby Coun­cil will in­ten­sify over the next fort­night and be­come more rel­e­vant.

The World Rugby Coun­cil will con­vene at the Royal Gar­den Ho­tel in Kens­ing­ton on Novem­ber 15th, when a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of 20 votes out of the over­all to­tal of 39 will be re­quired in or­der to win the right to host the 2023 World Cup.

There were also three ri­val bids for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, namely Italy, Ja­pan and South Africa. When World Rugby, then the In­ter­na­tional Rugby Board (IRB), met in Dublin on July 28th 2009, they voted 16-10 in favour of ap­prov­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion from Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL) that Eng­land and Ja­pan should be named hosts in turn.

To­day’s com­pleted eval­u­a­tion, which is ex­pected to run to a cou­ple of hun­dred pages, will also be made avail­able pub­licly on the World Rugby web­site. But although the process is notably trans­par­ent, es­pe­cially by com­par­i­son to its football and Olympic coun­ter­parts, the rec­om­men­da­tion has been kept un­der a veil of se­crecy, with no inkling as to how it may turn out.

Seven cat­e­gories

There are seven cat­e­gories un­der which each host can­di­da­ture has been as­sessed.

The first of th­ese is: ‘Venues and in­fras­truc­ture com­men­su­rate with a top-tier ma­jor event.’ This is ef­fec­tively sta­dia ca­pac­ity sizes de­pen­dent on the needs of given matches. Cer­tainly France and South Africa have the big­ger sta­dia but there would be le­git­i­mate doubts as to the lat­ter’s abil­ity to fill them.

The sec­ond cat­e­gory is: ‘Com­pre­hen­sive and en­force­able pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor

guar­an­tees’. Given the two Gov­ern­ments’ com­mit­ments, the Ir­ish bid should score well here.

The third is: ‘A com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful event with a fully funded, ro­bust fi­nan­cial model.’ The French are promis­ing the most fi­nan­cially prof­itable World Cup, although Ire­land’s bid ap­pears to be the most se­curely guar­an­teed.

The fourth is: ‘Op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence through an in­te­grated and ex­pe­ri­enced de­liv­ery team.’ Cer­tainly the French have the proven ex­pe­ri­ence, al­beit they hosted it in 2007 and are host­ing the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The fifth is: ‘A vi­sion that en­gages and in­spires do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences and con­trib­utes to the growth of rugby at all lev­els.’ If Ire­land don’t win this cat­e­gory it would be a sur­prise, not least given their reach into North Amer­ica.

The sixth is: ‘An en­abling en­vi­ron­ment of po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity that re­spects the di­ver­sity of Rugby World Cup’s global stake­hold­ers.’ This equates to sta­ble and trust­wor­thy gov­ern­ments, and Ire­land and France should score bet­ter than South Africa.


The sev­enth is: ‘An en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate suited to top-level sport in a ge­og­ra­phy that al­lows max­i­mum fan mo­bil­ity.’ Ire­land’s com­pact­ness should be another pos­i­tive although France has proven trans­port net­works, with se­cu­rity an is­sue in this cat­e­gory.

Those in­volved in the Ir­ish bid are con­fi­dent they’ve done ev­ery­thing they pos­si­bly can, they also know they face stiff com­pe­ti­tion. The Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment have un­der­writ­ten the tour­na­ment fee to World Rugby of ¤127 mil­lion, and the stakes are huge. A World Cup in Ire­land would have a di­rect eco­nomic im­pact of ¤800 mil­lion, which the IRFU chief ex­ec­u­tive Philip Browne has said is a “con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate,” while the pro­jected 445,000 vis­i­tors would con­sti­tute the largest num­ber of vis­it­ing fans for a World Cup hereto­fore.

To­day is not quite D-Day, but it could ul­ti­mately amount to the same thing, and it is cer­tainly the most im­por­tant day in the whole process to date. Who­ever wins the rec­om­men­da­tion will cer­tainly be des­per­ately dis­ap­pointed if they don’t then seal the right to host the 2023 World Cup. It would, as Brian O’Driscoll stated af­ter last month’s bid pre­sen­ta­tions, be the sin­gle big­gest sports event Ire­land could ever host.


The Ir­ish bid team will have an hour to di­gest the re­port be­fore, at 11am, the rec­om­men­da­tion will be made known pub­licly.

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